Own-it | Intellectual Property Know-How for Creative Businesses


What is a trade mark?

Published 14.06.10 at 11:53

A 'trade mark' is any sign capable of distinguishing your goods or services from other goods and services. It may consist of words, logos, the shape of the goods or their packaging, or a combination of all of these. A valid trademark enables the owner to prevent others from taking unfair advantage of the goodwill in the owner's brand.

Limited protection is offered to unregistered trade marks; more satisfactory remedies are available if the trade mark is registered.

Details of how to register a trade mark are available at the Intellectual Property Office's website. The process of registration can take 6 to 9 months, before which only the limited protection of unregistered trade marks applies. A single trade mark for the whole of the EU is also available; this is known as a 'community trade mark'.

Trade marks are not registrable if they:

-  Describe the goods or services or any characteristics of them (e.g. Fast Taxi Company; Dependable Decorators);

-  Have become customary in your line of trade;

-  Are not distinctive;

- Are specially protected emblems (e.g. flags, hallmarks, names of international inter-governmental organisations);

- Are offensive;

- Are against the law (e.g. promoting illegal drugs); or

- Are deceptive - the trade mark should not lead the public into thinking your goods and services have a quality that they do not have.

A registered trade mark needs to be renewed every 10 years to keep it enforceable.

Note, by registering a company name at Companies House you are not registering a trade mark.

This information has been prepared on behalf of Own-it by College of Law students at the Moorgate Centre supervised by a lecturer at the College of Law's Moorgate Centre . 

Photo credit: Nicki Varkevisser


Please note that this article discusses the legal position in the UK at the time of publication. It provides general information only but is not to be regarded as legal advice. You must take advice from a specialist lawyer in relation to your specific circumstances. Further, you should seek additional legal advice when dealing with parties based in other parts of the world or works originating from other parts of the world as the legal position may vary.


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